Time management on the Wii U.
Woohoo! The first Wii U game review. Unfortunately, it is not one of the triple A launch titles that we have heard so much about in the past weeks and months, but rather it is a much more unknown game from 505 Games and Tantalus Media that will be tempting the early Wii U adopters with the promise of farming fun. Welcome to Funky Barn.
It has to be said right from the start that Funky Barn is one of those games that appears at the launch of every new console which doesn’t quite fit. It’s not because the game isn’t enjoyable, because it is, but more because it seems to have been pushed out as a full price launch title when, even before playing the game, it seems much more suited to being a discount game, or a downloadable title. Is it here just because Nintendo wanted to boost the launch numbers? Or because the pricing structure for the less high quality games has not been sorted out yet? I don’t know. But Funky Barn is here, and we are going to have a look at it.
Funky Barn is a time management game that revolves around the seemingly popular activity of farming. For those of you indulge in some part time time farming, the game has more in common with games like Green Farm or Hayday than the likes of Harvest Moon, although it has much less waiting around than those mobile games.
If you are not well versed in the pleasures of farming on your iOS or Android device, then we are talking about basically making money by managing and building up a farm. In Funky Barn some hand drawn scenes will explain that the player has inherited a farm as the game loads, and then the explanations begin. Whilst the game is quite good about offering tips in the early moments of running the farm, i found that some things were not explained well (such as the placement of fences), and other times I found the constant explanations unnecessary and slightly distracting. It is the sort of game that the player needs to mess around with for an hour or so and then start a new game once they know what they are doing.
Anyway, Funky Barn concentrates on raising animals rather than crops, and there is a nice selection of different beasts to raise and make money from. There are different farms to play with, each with varying levels of difficulty. The player will begin with maybe a couple of chickens and then the friendly Stork will bring new baby animals to the farm as the player progresses, with more advanced animals becoming available as the game moves on.
These animals have to be tended to by purchasing food and water troughs, and keeping them filled. The environment also has an effect on the creatures ability to make money, so the player will find themselves buying and placing different homes for each type of animal, decorative items to make them happier, and fencing areas off as some animals don’t want to be around others. Players can work out what their animals need through little thought bubbles that appear over their heads, and they can even take advantage of the Wii U GamePad to give their animals a nice stroke, which increases their productivity.
Making money comes from the produce of these animals, such as the eggs which the chicken happily leave all over the ground. The player has only a certain amount of time to pick up the eggs and deposit them in a machine which then “fires” them to market. Each animal has to be treated in a different way, such as the sheep which need to be dropped into a machine to produce wool once they are big and fluffy enough. Occasionally neighbours will pop up and challenge the player to provide some produce in a certain amount of time, providing an extra boost of cash and adding something else to worry about in an exceptionally busy game.
Given the nature of the game, I was surprised that it couldn’t be played solely on the GamePad. However, Funky Barn does make good use of the controller in other ways, with plenty of touchpad integration, from simple selections to stroking your animals, and navigation using the twin sticks. It is not the most complex game when it comes to the controls, but at times things can get a bit chaotic when there is a lot to do and switching between the sticks and the touchscreen to make selections can waste valuable time.
The funky side of things comes in with the weird contraptions that the player can buy to help with running their farms. These various devices and robots can help out by collecting your produce for example, but they upset the animals so the player has to build roads for them to walk on and keep them away from the scared chickens. It certainly adds a quirky aspect to things, making the game stand out somewhat from other similar games.
Besides caring for animals and collecting produce to make money, the other aspect of the game comes from management of space, deciding where to place buildings, fences, roads etc., to make the most productive farm. It has quite a high learning curve, with things getting chaotic early on and it only takes a couple of mistakes to throw the player off completely, making it very difficult to get back on track as animals pack their bags and leave your farm.
Visually, the game looks cute. But again it doesn’t look like a full price game. It has a certain quaintness about it, but really doesn’t show the capabilities of the new Wii U console in the best light.
Funky Barn is an enjoyable little game that will cater to the time management gamers out there. But sadly the price is a real sticking point for a game of this quality. Had this been offered as a downloadble title on the eShop, at a reasonable price, the score would have been much higher. It is by no means the best launch title, but if you happen to find Funky Barn under your Xmas tree, you can look forward to some enjoyable, if slightly chaotic, gameplay.